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Libya vote: How Speaker Boehner preserved GOP unity and US-NATO ties

In an 11th-hour maneuver, Speaker Boehner derails an antiwar measure that would have required Obama to withdraw US forces from NATO's Libya mission within 15 days.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, during a Republican news conference.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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House Speaker John Boehner, scrambling to close Republican Party ranks, derailed at the 11th hour Friday an antiwar measure that had been picking up momentum this week from within GOP ranks and had appeared likely to pass.

At stake for Speaker Boehner was both the loyalty of the powerful Republican freshman class, which has been fixated on cutting spending and entitlements, and the need to avoid opening a rift between the United States and NATO.

The debate this week over President Obama’s handling of US engagement in Libya opened a new rift in GOP ranks. In a rare pairing, conservative Republicans gave a resolution from antiwar Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio most of its votes in a failing bid Friday to force Mr. Obama to withdraw US forces from the NATO-led mission in Libya within 15 days.

Instead, the House approved a measure drafted by Boehner that calls on Obama to provide Congress with more information on the war in Libya. It gives the White House 14 days to come back to Congress with a strategy for the mission.

The resolution is not binding on the White House, but “puts the president on notice,” Boehner said. “He has the chance to get this right, and if he doesn’t, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and we will make it right,” he added during Friday’s floor debate.

The Kucinich measure, which failed 148 to 165, drew from the ranks of traditional antiwar Democrats as well as deficit-driven conservatives, wary of new war costs at a time that Republicans are proposing draconian budget cuts. Thirty-four GOP freshmen – nearly 40 percent of the bumper freshman class – broke ranks with their own leadership to back the measure.

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